A Journal of the Plague Year

A Journal of the Plague Year

Overview
A Journal of the Plague Year is a novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 by Daniel Defoe
Daniel Defoe
Daniel Defoe , born Daniel Foe, was an English trader, writer, journalist, and pamphleteer, who gained fame for his novel Robinson Crusoe. Defoe is notable for being one of the earliest proponents of the novel, as he helped to popularise the form in Britain and along with others such as Richardson,...

, first published in March 1722
1722 in literature
The year 1722 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-Events:* Voltaire and Jean-Baptiste Rousseau meet and quarrel at Brussels.* Ten-year-old Jean-Jacques Rousseau is abandoned by his father, Isaac....

.

The novel is a fictionalised account of one man's experiences of the year 1665, in which the Great Plague
Great Plague of London
The Great Plague was a massive outbreak of disease in the Kingdom of England that killed an estimated 100,000 people, 20% of London's population. The disease is identified as bubonic plague, an infection by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, transmitted through a flea vector...

 struck the city of London. The book is told roughly chronologically, though without sections or chapter headings.

Although it purports to have been written only a few years after the event, it actually was written in the years just prior to the book's first publication in March 1722.
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Encyclopedia
A Journal of the Plague Year is a novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 by Daniel Defoe
Daniel Defoe
Daniel Defoe , born Daniel Foe, was an English trader, writer, journalist, and pamphleteer, who gained fame for his novel Robinson Crusoe. Defoe is notable for being one of the earliest proponents of the novel, as he helped to popularise the form in Britain and along with others such as Richardson,...

, first published in March 1722
1722 in literature
The year 1722 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-Events:* Voltaire and Jean-Baptiste Rousseau meet and quarrel at Brussels.* Ten-year-old Jean-Jacques Rousseau is abandoned by his father, Isaac....

.

The novel is a fictionalised account of one man's experiences of the year 1665, in which the Great Plague
Great Plague of London
The Great Plague was a massive outbreak of disease in the Kingdom of England that killed an estimated 100,000 people, 20% of London's population. The disease is identified as bubonic plague, an infection by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, transmitted through a flea vector...

 struck the city of London. The book is told roughly chronologically, though without sections or chapter headings.

Although it purports to have been written only a few years after the event, it actually was written in the years just prior to the book's first publication in March 1722. Defoe was only five years old in 1665, and the book itself was published under the initials H. F. The novel probably was based on the journals of Defoe's uncle, Henry Foe.

In the book, Defoe goes to great pains to achieve an effect of verisimilitude, identifying specific neighborhoods, streets, and even houses in which events took place. Additionally, it provides tables of casualty figures and discusses the credibility of various accounts and anecdotes received by the narrator.

The novel often is compared to the actual, contemporary accounts of the plague in the diary of Samuel Pepys
Samuel Pepys
Samuel Pepys FRS, MP, JP, was an English naval administrator and Member of Parliament who is now most famous for the diary he kept for a decade while still a relatively young man...

. Defoe's account, although fictionalized, is far more systematic and detailed than Pepys's first-person account.

Moreover, it may be compared to the description of the plague in the Italian Manzoni
Alessandro Manzoni
Alessandro Francesco Tommaso Manzoni was an Italian poet and novelist.He is famous for the novel The Betrothed , generally ranked among the masterpieces of world literature...

's The Betrothed (orig. Italian: I Promessi Sposi). In spite of some analogies (for example, both novels were written many years after the end of the plague), the two writers used different techniques: Defoe wrote a work full of details, but he used a detached tone, while Manzoni was not only able to reconstruct the general atmosphere of the pestilence-stricken Milan, but he also analysed the individual responses to the plague with a poetic sensitivity of his own.

Is A Journal of the Plague Year a novel?


Whether the Journal can properly be regarded as a true novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 has been disputed. Unlike novels such as Robinson Crusoe
Robinson Crusoe
Robinson Crusoe is a novel by Daniel Defoe that was first published in 1719. Epistolary, confessional, and didactic in form, the book is a fictional autobiography of the title character—a castaway who spends 28 years on a remote tropical island near Trinidad, encountering cannibals, captives, and...

or Moll Flanders
Moll Flanders
The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders is a novel written by Daniel Defoe in 1722, after his work as a journalist and pamphleteer. By 1722, Defoe had become a recognised novelist, with the success of Robinson Crusoe in 1719...

, the Journal of the Plague Year was initially read as a work of non-fiction. By the 1780s the work's fictional status was well-known, but debate continued as to whether Defoe could truly be regarded as the work's author, rather than merely its editor. One modern literary critic has gone so far as to assert that 'the invented detail is... small and inessential', while Watson Nicholson – writing in 1919 – argued that the work can be regarded as 'authentic history'. Other literary critics have argued that the work can indeed be regarded as a work of imaginative fiction, and thus can justifiably be described as a 'historical novel'.

Adaptations in other media


In 1945 the syndicated radio program The Weird Circle adapted the novel into a condensed 30-minute drama.

In later culture

  • The film Monty Python and the Holy Grail
    Monty Python and the Holy Grail
    Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a 1974 British comedy film written and performed by the comedy group Monty Python , and directed by Gilliam and Jones...

    incorporates several elements from the novel, including the phrase "Bring out your dead" and the idea of carting off a man who is still alive to be buried.
  • During François Truffaut
    François Truffaut
    François Roland Truffaut was an influential film critic and filmmaker and one of the founders of the French New Wave. In a film career lasting over a quarter of a century, he remains an icon of the French film industry. He was also a screenwriter, producer, and actor working on over twenty-five...

    's 1966 film Fahrenheit 451
    Fahrenheit 451 (1966 film)
    Fahrenheit 451 is a 1966 film directed by François Truffaut, in his first colour film as well as his only English-language film. It is based on the novel of the same name by Ray Bradbury....

    , an adaptation of Ray Bradbury
    Ray Bradbury
    Ray Douglas Bradbury is an American fantasy, horror, science fiction, and mystery writer. Best known for his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 and for the science fiction stories gathered together as The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man , Bradbury is one of the most celebrated among 20th...

    's novel Fahrenheit 451
    Fahrenheit 451
    Fahrenheit 451 is a 1953 dystopian novel by Ray Bradbury. The novel presents a future American society where reading is outlawed and firemen start fires to burn books...

    , a copy of A Journal of the Plague Year can be seen being burnt during the book burning
    Book burning
    Book burning, biblioclasm or libricide is the practice of destroying, often ceremoniously, books or other written material and media. In modern times, other forms of media, such as phonograph records, video tapes, and CDs have also been ceremoniously burned, torched, or shredded...

     scene at Montag's
    Guy Montag
    Guy Montag is the protagonist in Ray Bradbury's dystopian 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451. He is depicted living in a futuristic town where he works as a fireman whose job is to burn books.-Montag's role in the storyline:...

     house.
  • In the Daria
    Daria
    Daria is an American animated television series produced by Paramount Television, and created by Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis Lynn for MTV. The series focuses on Daria Morgendorffer, a smart, acerbic, and somewhat misanthropic teenage girl who observes the world around her...

    telemovie Is It Fall Yet?
    Is It Fall Yet?
    Is It Fall Yet? is the first of two movie-length installments featured in MTV's animated series Daria.The two telemovies, Is It Fall Yet? and Is It College Yet?, chronicled, respectively, the summer hiatus between the school years of seasons four and five, and the second served as the show's...

    , A Journal of the Plague Year is on Daria's bed when Helen, surprised, overhears Daria consoling Quinn. When she is discovered, Quinn makes the excuse that she came to Daria's room to borrow a book, unknowingly grabbing A Journal of the Plague Year off the bed and shuddering in disgust when she figures out which book she took.

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